Social innovations in energy policy making

Integrative social‐science concepts of analyzing social innovations in energy policy making

AG Social Innovations neu

Raising awareness of the unsustainable path on which societies and economies develop also triggers the emergence of alternative lifestyle concepts. At the core of this development is social innovation. Both the individual as well as the societal innovation processes might prove to be important factors in people’s willingness to adopt climate policies and to support international efforts in mitigation and assistance to adaptation. Yet, a pressing question is how fast and how broadly these new concepts are adopted. In order to make a difference to current societal and economic development, they have to reach the mainstream in a relatively short period of time.

In order to do so, this working group aims at fostering societal transformations in the energy domain through smart combinations of social and technical innovations after establishing a inter‐ and transdisciplinary network of relevant scientists and stakeholders and developing a sound transdisciplinary research perspective for future activities of the network. The working group makes two specifications for the use of the social innovation concept. One concerns the domain of innovation, in this case focusing on energy use. The second one regards the methodological challenges to capture and model innovation and diffusion.

Among others, following questions are to be dicussed:

  • How is social innovation conceptualized in different disciplines and how can different angles of research on innovation be brought together, e.g. with a transdisciplinary approach?
  • How are social innovations triggered? What societal constellations foster innovative ideas? Are societal innovations initiated by bottom‐up processes, by top‐down processes or by a combination of both?
  • How can transdisciplinary research help in scaling up social innovative behavior?
  • What can be learned from the field of energy use for other fields of consumption?


Working group members

Prof. Dr. Andreas Ernst, University of Kassel, Psychology

Prof. Dr. Birgit Blättel‐Mink, Goethe-University Frankfurt, Sociology

Antje Brock, Freie Universität Berlin, Educational Science and Future Studies

Prof. Dr. Ilan ChabayIASS Potsdam, Transdisciplinary Sustainability Research

Dr. Bert Droste-FrankeEuropean Academy of Technology and Innovation Assessment, Engineering science

Dr. Jochen Hinkel, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Economics

Prof. Dr. Katrin Rehdanz, Kiel Institute for the World Economy, Economics

Prof. Dr. Jens-Peter Schneider, University of Freiburg, Public Law

Dr. Mattijs Smits, Wageningen University and Research, Environmental Policy



Time period: 2016 - 2017 (18 months)


Working group spokespersons:

Prof. Dr. Andreas Ernst
Center for Environmelntal Systems Research (CESR)
Universität Kassel
e-Mail: ernst(a)usf.uni-kassel.de

Prof. Dr. Birgit Blättel-Mink
Goethe-Universität Frankfurt
E-Mail: b.blaettel-mink(a)soz.uni-frankfurt.de


Expected output:

Conceptual paper


Meetings (by invitation):


9./10.3.2017 (Program)




  • 2015-2017

    Positive impacts through land use change

  • 2015-2017

    Co-design, co-production and co-dissemination

  • 2015-2017

    Das Gesellschaftliche in sozial-ökologischen Modellen und Simulationen

  • 2015-2017

    Sustainable intensification in agriculture

  • 2016-2018

    Social innovations in energy policy making

  • 2017-2019

    Urbane Nachhaltigkeitstrans- formationen

  • 2017-2019

    Nachhaltige Arbeit